When it comes to their pets, many Americans are more willing than ever to pull out all the stops to keep them healthy and happy. In fact, the pet product industry has seen year-over-year spending increase 450% over the last 25 years, and consumers now spend $49 billion annually on pet food, supplies and treats, according to data technology company SPINS.
Today’s pets are being treated more like members of the family, and along with that comes shifting ideas about the types of products people purchase for them.
“The humanization of pets has been the status quo for several years, but this mindset of pets plus people plus premium preferences is driving today’s trends and shifts,” said Amy Kerr, director of client development for the pet industry with SPINS.
Indeed, Kerr believes the daily routines of pet parents have an influence on their pets, which has helped drive growth in premium and natural foods, as well as non-food categories including supplements, vitamins and CBD items.
Placing a premium on pet products
This premiumization of pet products has been a boon for neighborhood pet specialty stores, with 70% of their sales being attributed to specialty, natural and wellness products, SPINS found. As the coronavirus pandemic has continued, Kerr said, these retailers have seen more pet parents looking for expert advice to help their pet achieve a healthier lifestyle.
As for the types of premium products pet parents are seeking, a main distinction can be seen in kibble versus other forms of food, including raw, dehydrated and refrigerated. “For example, within raw it’s looking at the addition of raw goats’ milk to a dog’s diet and really elevating their quality of life,” Kerr explained.
Pet store owner Pattie Zeller puts an emphasis on selling raw pet food after experiencing its benefits firsthand with her own dog. Zeller also helps her customers find ways to enhance their pets’ food if they’re unable to exclusively follow a raw diet.
“For instance, if a customer is feeding dry food, we provide products that will add moisture — for instance, goat’s milk, fish stock or fresh meat when they can,” Zeller told Pet Product News. “We try to provide what we feel are the best options at a wide variety of price points, including fresh and raw foods, gently cooked, and good quality canned and kibble selections.”
Additionally, SPINS found that consumers are taking a closer look at ingredients lists and product claims when purchasing pet products. Shoppers generally look for the same attributes they look for in their own food — from high-protein foods to those with no preservatives or artificial flavors.
As with specialty diets geared toward humans, there are opposing viewpoints as to the safety and efficacy of feeding such diets to pets — namely dogs. Companies such as Bones & Co Pet Foods, though, have rolled out keto-friendly options to appeal to pet owners also undertaking the diet, and the company asserts that fresh, raw food can lead to better dental health, a shinier coat and less dehydration.
Getting ahead in the space
Gaining market share in the pet space requires food retailers to focus on relevancy, as well as stocking the right assortment of products, Kerr said. “The pet space changes fast and understanding what trends are positively impacting neighborhood pet stores now and why [is important],” Kerr said. “If they are not being proactive with their pet aisle, then they will be left behind.”
Using data to manage product selection and to take a holistic look at each type of pet product shopper is imperative for retailers, Kerr continued.
When it comes to pet product manufacturers, launching within neighborhood pet stores can help them harness the power of the natural space and better connect with consumers. Using social media can also be a boon for manufacturers, Kerr explained.
“Social media has created a platform for pet lovers everywhere to connect with their kind, build a community and crowdsource answers to all their pet questions,” she said. “Manufacturers are tapping into this and it is a major win for them in today’s neighborhood pet market.”
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